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Stephan Elliott
Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter, Rebel Penfold-Russell, June Marie Bennett
Writing Credits:
Stephan Elliott

Finally, a comedy that will change the way you think, the way you feel, and most importantly ... the way you dress.

Two drag-queens and a transexual contract to perform a drag show at a resort in Alice Springs, a resort town in the remote Australian desert. They head west from Sydney aboard their lavender bus, Priscilla. En route, it is discovered that the woman they've contracted with is Anthony's wife. Their bus breaks down, and is repaired by Bob, who travels on with them.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$11.059 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Surround 2.0
Italian DTS 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Castilian DTS 5.1
Hungarian Dolby Surround 2.0
Polish Stereo
Thai Dolby Surround 2.0
Turkish Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/7/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Stephan Elliot
• “Birth of a Queen” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• “Tidbits from the Set” Featurette
• “The Bus from Blooperville” Gag Reel
• Trailers


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert [Blu-Ray] (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 6, 2012)

Perhaps sometimes I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – or a movie by its promos. When The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert hit screens in 1994, I couldn’t have manifested much less enthusiasm for it than I did. An Australian indie flick about drag queens as they cross the Outback? Pass!

For reasons I can’t recall, I eventually saw the film – and thought it offered a pretty good product. Will it still stand up many years later?

Priscilla introduces us to a group of Sydney-based drag performers. We encounter aging transsexual Bernadette/Ralph (Terence Stamp), in mourning over the death of his partner Trumpet. We also get to know pensive Tick/Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and flamboyant young Felicia/Adam (Guy Pearce).

Tick gets an offer to stage a show out in the Aussie desert, and he invites along the others. To make the trip, Adam manipulates his mother and obtains the money to buy a bus that he christens “Priscilla”. The threesome make their way across Australia and the film follows them along the way.

Now that I’ve watched Priscilla on home video, I’ve come to speculate that I never saw it in the first place. Maybe I did, or maybe I didn’t, but I can say that this screening rang virtually no bells.

As I viewed the movie, I started to wonder if I confused Priscilla with another mid-Nineties Aussie hit, Strictly Ballroom. Or maybe Muriel’s Wedding. I know that I had no interest in seeing those but did anyway and kind of liked them, so maybe I mistook Priscilla for one or both.

My confusion stemmed from my current opinion of Priscilla, as I just didn’t think it was terribly entertaining. Oh, the movie doesn’t create an unlikable experience. It has too much going for it to turn into a full dud, especially via Stamp’s terrific performance. In the face of Pearce’s raging queendom, Stamp gives us a delightfully dry, laconic turn. He adds depth to the proceedings and makes it more interesting.

On the other hand, Pearce’s brassy performance as Felicia tended to get on my nerves. Some of this may not be Pearce’s fault, as the movie sticks him with its most stereotypical, one-dimensional part. He doesn’t receive much opportunity to do anything other than play the wild drag queen. Still, I think Pearce could’ve been less annoying, as his personality genuinely irritated me.

Priscilla suffers from a lack of story. It focuses on its characters – sort of – but fails to develop them in a really meaningful way. They maintain minor story arcs that don’t give us much meat. Indeed, the character elements feel like cheap attempts at depth that the movie doesn’t really desire to explore.

Instead, it prefers to take our trio on the road and have them play dress-up. That’s basically how Priscilla goes: the guys go to a new spot, find stunned yokels, put on a show and head on the road. This routine gets dull and loses any effectiveness pretty quickly.

Priscilla earned itself a decent little cult audience over the years, and I could’ve sworn I used to like it myself. However, right now I can’t figure out what made it appeal to me, as I think it presents a few positives but not enough to make it a success.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not without flaws, the transfer usually looked good.

Sharpness was strong. A smidgen of softness occasionally appeared, but not much, so the majority of the movie exhibited nice clarity and accuracy. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement seemed absent.

Source flaws were a bit of a distraction. These weren’t heavy, but a mix of specks and marks cropped up throughout the movie. Though these could’ve been worse, I thought the film should’ve been cleaner.

With all its wild outfits, Priscilla offered a dynamic palette. The colors looked fantastic from start to finish. They seemed lively and rich, as they really leapt off the screen. Blacks appeared deep and tight, while shadows were clear and smooth. Without the print flaws, this would’ve been an “A”-level transfer, but the blemishes knocked it down to a “B”.

I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Priscilla worked fine. Music dominated the flick and usually featured decent stereo imaging. These elements varied dependent on the source material, but I thought the songs mostly showed nice delineation, and the score worked fine. Effects remained oriented toward ambience, and those sounded good. The crowds and the outback setting offered some nice opportunities for environmental information, and the tracks reproduced those well. This meant the surrounds didn’t have much to do, but they bolstered the package in a positive way.

For the most part, audio quality seemed good. At times I thought speech could be slightly metallic, but the lines were reasonably natural much of the time, and they were about as intelligible as one could expect given all the accents. Effects never pushed the auditory envelope, but they seemed accurate and full within their low-key constraints.

Some ups and downs came with music, and these depended on the sources. The score was clear and smooth, and the songs usually appeared pretty lively as well. Again, the tunes depended on the sources, so some fared better than others. Still, they were pretty solid much of the time. While I didn’t find anything dazzling here, the audio of Priscilla remained good.

How did the audio and picture of this Blu-ray compare with the last DVD from 2007? Audio was comparable, but the visuals showed the standard Blu-ray bump. However, I thought print flaws seemed more prominent on the Blu-ray. In truth, I suspect both the DVD and the BD offer the same transfer but I simply found the defects to be more obvious on the latter. The shift from the 36” TV on which I watched the DVD to the 50” set used for the BD also likely made a difference. In any case, I’m confident the BD offered the superior picture.

Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here. These start with an audio commentary from director Stephan Elliott, as he offers a running, screen-specific chat. Elliott gets into how he came up with the flick, its writing and troubles obtaining financing, ideas and inspirations, cast, characters and performances, various locations and the main bus, clothes and visual choices, musical selections, problems throughout the production, important screenings, the film’s reception, and a host of other details and anecdotes.

If Elliott had made a movie half as entertaining as his commentary, I’d have loved Priscilla. From start to finish, he packs this track with high-energy stories and details. He gives us a dynamic examination of his film’s ups and downs and makes this a truly outstanding and enjoyable commentary.

Next comes Birth of a Queen: Directing a Drag Classic. This 29-minute and 20-second program mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews with Elliott. He discusses how he became a filmmaker and the development/financing of Priscilla, casting, “tranny training”, shooting on the bus and on locations, costumes, music selections, early screenings and reactions to the flick.

Since Elliott covered so damned much material in his commentary, “Birth” becomes rather redundant. A few alternate notes and details emerge, but the vast majority of the information also appears in the commentary. If you don’t want to bother with the audio track, then “Birth” will serve as a decent substitute, and it’s certainly an efficient take on these topics. It’s not particularly useful if you’ve already heard the commentary, though, and it’s too bad that we don’t get a documentary with other participants.

Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 34 seconds. “How Trumpet Got His Nickname” (1:03), “Check-In at the Checkers Motel” (1:20), “An Outtage Before Dinner” (1:41) and “Auntie Picks Up the Pieces” (2:30). “Trumpet” just offers a short addition to an existing scene, while the others add some minor comedic bits. In fact, “Outtage” provides the frightening shot of Stamp with an electric razor stuck to his armpit hair. None of the clips seem particularly interesting.

Tidbits from the Set collects a bunch of brief soundbites. We find 13 of these that run between seven seconds and 64 seconds for a total of six minutes, seconds of footage. We get snippets from Elliott, producers Al Clark and Michael Hamlyn, costume designers Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel, and actors Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce. A few good notes emerge. Elliott discusses his desire to make a new kind of musical, we see costume details, and we get some comments from Stamp about playing in drag. Not much actual substance appears here, though, and I remain disappointed that the DVD lacks new interviews with anyone other than Elliott.

For a gag reel, we get The Bus from Blooperville. The nine-minute and 35-second compilation offers a pretty standard set of goofs and flubs. The drag complications give “Bus” a slightly different edge but not enough to make the outtakes entertaining.

Two trailers finish the set. The Blu-ray drops a still gallery and a booklet from the last DVD.

Essentially a one joke movie without much else to it, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert only occasionally connects. I like Terence Stamp’s performance but can’t find much else here to praise. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture, audio and supplements. It’s not a killer release – the image could use a cleaning – but it’s still the best version of the film on the market.

To rate this film, visit the Extra Frills Edition review of PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT

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